How to Like Dance

It’s a Sunday afternoon in Melbourne’s busy inner-northern suburbs and I’m wandering around empty dance studios at Dancehouse. The lights are switched off throughout Carlton Hall, a former community centre-cum-dance hub, and I can’t spot a sign directing me to the first session of the How to Like Dance workshop. I finally find the facilitator, theatre critic and author Alison Croggon, alone in the back-of-house office, sitting at a conference table and unsuccessfully trying to turn up the volume on her PowerPoint slide show. The six remaining participants are yet to arrive.

How to Like Dance (HTLD) is a collaboration between Dancehouse and the Keir Choreographic Award (KCA), facilitated by online theatre magazine Witness Performance. It’s delivered by Witness founders, Croggon and the theatre all-rounder, Robert Reid. The workshop consists of two three-hour, Sunday afternoon dance appreciation workshops, a ticket to each of the KCA’s two weeknight programmes, a further one-hour discussion group after the second programme, and a free glass of wine.

KCA, now in its third edition, is Australia’s most prestigious (and only) contemporary dance prize, and has quickly asserted its place and mission in the Australian dance field by ‘promoting innovation, experimentation and cross-artform practices in contemporary dance’. It biennially commissions eight new works by Australian dancemakers, and the eight finalists vie for a AUD 30,000 grand prize and AUD 10,000 audience prize.

HTLD forms part of a larger public programme accompanying the KCA, including choreographic workshops for the local dance community led by the KCA’s international jury members Meg Stuart and Eszter Salamon; a dance documentation activity, Scribe, for recording audience reactions; and a range of panel discussions on timely, hot-button topics, featuring academics and local and international dance professionals.

There seems to be a growing interest in dance appreciation and audience engagement and development programming worldwide. For example, Springback editor Sanjoy Roy wrote about his ‘dates with dance’ experiment, and in 2014 I had the opportunity to tailor dance appreciation activities for the festival temps d’images in Düsseldorf, Germany (as part of a small team of dance researchers). Why might this be? My best bet is that as contemporary dance becomes progressively less like normative ideas about dance – that is, virtuosic, codified movement set to music and presented on stage to an audience – spectators are increasingly pondering how to respond, and whether they’re doing it right. Continue reading How to Like Dance

MEDIA // How to Like Dance (1)

Alexander Campbell

Alexander Campbell, a former student of Academy Ballet in Sydney, was recently promoted to principal dancer of the Royal Ballet in London. This represents the greatest of Campbell’s achievements since he began performing on world stages 14 years ago. Campbell joined the Royal Ballet School (RBS) after competing at the 2003 Prix de Lausanne. Recalling his move overseas, he reflects, “It’s difficult to leave your family and what you know, but I remember being quite excited about it. There was no question in my mind that it was what I had to do to become a professional dancer.”

Continue reading Alexander Campbell

Dancers and Instragram

Writing about dancers using Instagram is having its fashionable moment. The New York Times dance writer, Gia Kourlas, suggests dancers’ self promotion online humanises them, as opposed to placing them on an impersonal ‘high culture’ pedestal. Dance Magazine’s Kristin Schwab goes so far as portraying The New York Times’ coverage of dancers using social media as a step towards a revival of dance journalism, categorising it as middle ground between specialised and tabloid press. In exploring this, she expands on Kourlas’s article and argues that dancers first have to be “demystified” in order to generate interest in expert opinions on dance. Continue reading Dancers and Instragram

Connor Barlow

Connor Barlow is one of the youngest members of the Béjart Ballet Lausanne’s ensemble and is now in his second season after having graduated from English National Ballet School (ENBS) in 2014. Prior to his training in London, Connor was a student at The McDonald College in Sydney from 2007 to 2011. When we met in Cologne, Germany, following one of thirteen shows there as part of the city’s summer festival, he was tired not only from the gruelling conditions of a touring company, also from the 12 month long season that was soon to come to a welcome end. Continue reading Connor Barlow

EXCERPT // Moving Meetings Dance/Dutch Dance Festival

[…] at Moving Meetings Dance artists were invited to sell themselves and their work to a large and influential live audience without having the chance to perform much, if any, choreography at all. Pitches were made with one eye on a ticking clock; most artists used the time to present a video clip and simultaneously narrate the images on screen. One choreographer underlined his affordability. Wordless Dario Tortorelli had his audience put on sunglasses as he strutted slow motion out of the room with the hope we might feel almost as suave as his on-stage alter ego, Romeo Heart, looks. The pitches were complemented by an additional programme of young choreographers who were given the enviable chance to stage part of a work in a studio theatre.

– LUKE AARON FORBES

Excerpt of an article published by Dance Europe, Issue 200, Novermber 2015. Purchase the entire issue here: http://www.danceeurope.net/store/issue-200-0

Elisa Badenes

Elisa Badenes was recently named principal dancer at the Stuttgart Ballet, in Germany, at the age of 22. Following her debut as Nikiya in Stanton Welch’s La Bayadere, performing as a guest artist with the Australian Ballet in Melbourne, Luke Forbes was waiting to hear how it went.

Elisa’s dance career had humble but sound foundations, starting out as a student at the dance conservatoire in her home town, Valencia, in Spain. At the age of 15 she submitted an audition video to the Prix de Lausanne and was fortunate enough to receive an invitation to compete. Although her first competition experience was disappointingly short lived, upon being eliminated in the first round the Royal Ballet School promptly offered her a scholarship anyway. Continue reading Elisa Badenes

EXCERPT // Repetitors – Jason Fowler & Antoine Vereecken

In an interview available on the New York City Ballet’s YouTube channel, Wheeldon paraphrases George Balanchine in the course of describing his own creative processes: “make no fuss, just make a ballet. Don’t worry about it too much as you’re doing it, but just make dance, and get better because you make a lot of dance”. He continues, with an equally nonchalant flair, “we’ve got three weeks, let’s make a ballet”. With so little time, one can presume that the choreography develops in a way which emphasises the dancers’ own strengths, particularly as they wouldn’t have much time to fine tune their interpretations working under such hectic conditions. As a result, Wheeldon’s repetitor, Jason Fowler, a former NYCB dancer, is left with the challenge of reproducing works that emerged quite instinctively and spontaneously.

– LUKE AARON FORBES

Excerpt of an article published by Dance Europe, Issue 198, August/Septmeber 2015. Purchase the entire issue here: http://www.danceeurope.net/store/issue-198